Taiken Japan

When in Japan, Know Your Miso...

Photo: Hiro - Kokoro☆Photo on Flickr

When in Japan, Know Your Miso...

Kade Delis

Here it is.  That delicious bowl of salty, briny liquid warmth that ignites not only your taste, but also makes your insides feel calm and satisfied.  It is miso soup, the gastronomic gift from Japan that tastes great with rice.  Outside Japan, you may find it difficult to find a restaurant that serves different kinds of miso soup; you may only get to slurp one kind of paste.  Each region of Japan has its own unique version of this healthy side dish so, based on your love of Japan and Japanese cuisine, it would be imperative to know what different kinds of miso pastes there are.  Not all miso soup is the same though.  It comes in different tastes and colors and is even seasonal.

Tokyo - Tsukiji: Sushi Dai - Misoshiru

Tokyo - Tsukiji: Sushi Dai - Misoshiru

Photo: Wally Gobetz on Flickr

Miso soup with tofu and sea weeds.

Miso soup with tofu and sea weeds.

Photo: Julia Frost on Flickr

Japanese people have been eating miso soup for hundreds of years.  It is an important staple in Japanese cuisine and is loved in Japan and many other countries for its taste and health benefits.  Have you ever been to a sushi restaurant that did not have miso soup on the menu?  People outside Japan may know miso soup, but they don’t know the different kinds of miso pastes that are available and that mixing different miso pastes into a soup is common.

Shiroi miso, white miso, is mostly popular around New Year’s celebrations and is great to eat with lots of chunky vegetables in it.  It also tastes great as an added ingredient when mixing miso pastes.  It is lighter in color than other miso, so there is a less salty taste.  It has no fish stock like other miso, so it is great for vegetarians.

Shiro Miso Soup

Shiro Miso Soup

Photo: Cloganese on Flickr

Inaka miso, countryside miso, is chunkier than other miso.  Its burly look and brown color may remind you of chunky peanut butter and when it’s chopped soybeans attach to you tongue, it is fun to eat and relaxing.  This is a filling miso paste so it is great for winter dinners and a great recommendation if you are in Japan’s countryside.

Aka miso, red miso, has a darker look than the others.  That is due to it being fermented longer and is mixed with fish stock.  Cooked by itself the soup looks dark and unappetizing but actually works best as a mix with different miso paste giving you a soup with tons of added flavor.

Aka Miso Soup

Aka Miso Soup

Photo: fto mizno on Flickr

Kouji miso, uncooked rice miso, is good to keep in your pantry.  It is the thickest and most filling.  The tiny amount of rice in the paste gives it an excellent consistency and feels good to swallow too.  Add some vegetables and possibly some meat and you have a multi-layered whole meal that you can share with someone.

Dashihairi miso, fish stock miso, is possibly the easiest to find, especially in Japan and is most common in Japanese homes.  It has fish stock (dashi) inside of it making it saltier and thinner than other miso pastes and is usually the cheapest.  No, it does not taste like fish at all, it has the same miso soup taste you would recognize.

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Photo: Kyrie Casio on Flickr 

Miso soup is Japan’s warm bowl of flavor that will have you begging for more.  It is filling, tastes great, and will have your insides falling into fermented goodness.  It is easy to make and is good to eat at just about any time of the day.  Try one of these different pastes and see which one you like.  This article may have made you hungry so why not go out now, boil some water and miso together and have a bowl for yourself?